It had been months since Stella* and I had connected, so it was great to meet her for lunch last week. Of course there was a good bit of laughter shared between us, but we also talked about some hard stuff involving what I generally refer to as, the sandpaper people in our lives.
“Sandpaper people?” you may well ask. Sandpaper people are the people in our lives who grate on our nerves by simply walking into the same room we are in. They are often:
- People we have to work with– who we might otherwise avoid!
- People who irritate us when their views do not align with our own or,
- People who fail to live up to our expectations.
On a personal level, the hard thing about sandpaper people
is that they grate on our nerves and frustrate us–
often triggering unkind, sinful responses!
As the exchange between Stella and I continued I wondered, “Lord, is there a better way to deal with the irritation that sandpaper people cause? How would YOU have us deal with such people who bring out the worst in us?”
As I empathized with Stella’s lament, the answer to my question floated into my mind with the unexpected thought, “Put on love . . . .” I tried to brush it away, as if it was a persistent fly buzzing my ear. But as Stella talked about an irritating co-worker, I found myself less able to focus on her words as the answer that began as a whisper grew louder in my mind: “Put on love!”
Finally, I told Stella about my struggle. Thinking the phrase was something the Apostle Paul wrote, I asked her to look it up on her cell phone–I’m helpless when it comes to doing such things! Within minutes she found the phrase in a letter Paul wrote to his friends in Colossians. As I slurped my soup Stella read these words aloud:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another
if any of you has a grievance against someone.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
AND OVER ALL THESE VIRTUES PUT ON LOVE,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Oblivious to the activity around us as she read, I remembered how the passage had helped me in the past. I told Stella about how Paul’s words had encouraged me when it reminded me of my identity in Christ:
Chosen . . . holy . . . and dearly loved by God.
I shared how in the past, when struggling with a sandpaper person, Paul’s letter showed me how in Christ we have options to choose from . . . options that do not lead to sin:
Where frustration, anger or bitterness urge a haughty response,
Paul encourages us to put on one of Christ’s robes of
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience
and, yes, even love.
As I have prayerfully confessed my temptation to sin
and given thanks for His love and mercy,
His Peace has become my own.
Since our lunch date, I have continued to think about how God blesses us through sandpaper people. When tempted to hate or resent such a person, Jesus urges His own.to love and pray for our enemies!**. When I have obeyed this command, He has lightened the burden in my heart and freed me to avoid the path of bitterness and resentment. Best of all, through this process He has freed me to live for, love and serve Him with an exceedingly glad heart.
This past Palm Sunday I gained a fresh insight that I am still processing:
Not all sandpaper people are negative.
God uses them to mature and draw us closer to Himself.
Jesus was (and continues to be)
a sandpaper person to all who encounter Him!
As we remember Christ’s Crucifixion on Friday–demonstrating mans hatred for what we might call, God’s Ultimate Sandpaper Person–we can rejoice in the knowledge that Sunday’s celebration marks the day Redemption was won for all who trust in Him.
No matter what you may be facing in your life, no matter how overwhelmed you may feel . . . you are NOT alone. As Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Sunday approach, be encouraged and learn from Christ’s sacrificial demonstration of “putting on love” for you and for me . . . ❤
Rejoicing in Him–Happy Easter!
All to His Glory!
*Not her real name.
**“”You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbori and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45b